AGCOM disburses K2.1bn grants to 46 Central Region’s agricultural cooperatives

1st Deputy Speaker of Parliament Madalitso Kazombo with Changu Producers and Marketing Cooperative from his Constituency

By Kondwani Magombo, MANA

A total of 46 productive cooperative alliances from 8 districts in the Central Region went away smiling on Monday after they obtained grants of various amounts from Agriculture Commercialization (AGCOM) to boost their agricultural businesses.

Advertisement

The event was held at Mtunthama Extension Planning Area in Traditional Area Wimbe in Kasungu, and the agricultural alliances were drawn from Mchinji, Ntcheu, Dedza, Lilongwe, Nkhotakota, Dowa, Ntchisi and the hosts Kasungu.

Agriculture Ministry’s Principal Secretary, Sandram Maweru described the exercise as a positive indication that AGCOM, a US$95 million World Bank-funded project aimed at boosting commercial farming and value addition, is on track.

The PS observed that farmers have shown eagerness to venture into serious agri-business by coming up with good business ideas.

PS Maweru

“AGCOM only gives grants to proposals that make business sense and from what we’ve seen so far, the farmers have got very good business ideas and concepts.”

He added that by promoting commercialization, AGCOM ensures that farmers go into business ventures through their enterprises and must be “market orientation”.

“We don’t produce without finding the market first,” he said. “So the farmers are responding to the needs of the market that is readily available.”

AGCOM national coordinator, Dr. Ted Nankhumwa concurred with Maweru, saying the project is “quite on track” and that they have so far beaten some targets.

Advertisement

Nankhumwa said the project has established 212 productive cooperative alliances, which is way past the set target of 200 alliances.    

He said out the 212 alliances, 150 are the ones which have managed to fulfil all the requirements of acquiring grants.

“In addition to a sound business proposal, the cooperatives are also supposed to make a contribution before we make our contribution in form of a grant — the 150 cooperatives are the ones that have paid their matching contributions.”

Two Southern Region cooperatives, Shire Highlands Milk Producers (SHMPA) and Minyali Cotton Farmers also received their support last year

However, Nankhumwa said the project will have to open another window as they are currently receiving and handling more equally good business concepts.

So far, from the US$30 million funding, US$16.67 (K13.7bn) has been committed to the cause, according Nankhumwa.

One of the beneficiaries, Changu Producers and Marketing Cooperative, located at Kapinya Village, T/A Wimbe, received K30.7 million grant to boost their farming enterprise.

Earlier, the cooperative also got another grant which the members used for the procurement of K42 million farm tractor, and attaching tools like plough, ridger, and others — which the PS Maweru officially handed over during the Monday ceremony.

Meanwhile, an irrigation pipeline which AGCOM manages in Chikwawa, that benefits over 250 farming households, was destroyed due to floods caused by Cyclone Ana and needs over K87 million to rehabilitate.

AGCOM is also set to restore other irrigation systems in Phalombe, Mulanje, Chikwawa and Nsanje whose pipelines were also breached due to the massive floods.

Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe took an opportunity to visit the affected site whose intake is on Mwamphazi River at Thabwa, where he promised traditional chiefs and local managers of the irrigation scheme of speedy rehabilitation of the infrastructure.

The damaged irrigation pipeline

He was appraised that the whole pipeline from the intake and along the river to the farm lands, needs to be reinforced — thus needing K87 million.

Minister Lowe passed by after his visit to the Shire Valley Transformation Programme, whose structures under construction were heavily damaged and he also committed that government is keen to redesign the destructed structures and start all over again.

Accompanying him on the trip was his Deputy Minister; chairperson of Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture & Irrigation, Sameer Suleman (MP for Blantyre City South East) as well as PS Maweru and delegations from the Ministry and District Councils.

In his remarks, Suleman — the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator — while applauding the Minister for his swift response to visit the breached area and offer solutions, pleaded with Lowe  that this was an emergency that needed swift attention to.

Lowe (middle) interacting with the chiefs and affected farmers

He took cognizance that the agricultural produce that travellers buy at Thabwa trading centre on their way to and from Blantyre — such as fresh beans, fresh maize, tomatoes, oranges, onions, sweet potatoes, rice and other vegetables — are grown by the farmers who are part of the irrigation scheme cooperative.

Council chairperson said many fields’s crops were damaged and thus once the pipeline is back in action it will help farmers supplement their livelihood through winter cropping

Meanwhile, he said, farmers are taking advantage of the wet soil to replant and he thus asked if they could be assisted with farm inputs such as seeds.—Additional reporting by Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express

Advertisement